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I am in a debate as to whether diced, marinated pork shoulder cooked in a vacuum bag in a regular conventional oven gives the same result as the same pork, cooked in a steam oven.
The bagged pork had a probe where upon reaching 180°F, the pork was removed and chilled down. This took about 4-6 hours. The bagged pork in the steam oven was cooked for 4-6 hrs. where it was also chilled down. The pork in the steam oven was much more tender and in individual pieces. The pork in the conventional oven was stuck together and chewy. Does the steam help keep the pork more tender even though it is in a vacuum bag?

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Did the steam-oven-pork also get to 180F? –  Sobachatina Jul 16 at 21:25

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As you may already know, meat becomes tender when cooking because collagen (which is chewy) breaks down into gelatin (which isn't chewy), and the longer it cooks, the more collagen is broken down.

Having said that, if the bag in the conventional oven was in for closer to 4h and the bag in the steam oven was in for closer to 6h, it's kind of obvious why the steam oven meat was more tender (50% more time does make quite a bit of difference!).

If the bags were in the oven for the about the same time, the steam oven bag probably cooked longer anyway as steam transfers heat more effectively than dry air - by the time the meat in the conventional oven reached 180F, the meat in the steam oven had already been sitting at that temperature there for a while, and so, more collagen had time to break down. Steam should also provide a more even heat, with less fluctuations (having greater thermal capacity).

Lastly, it could just have been that the meats were a bit different - the tougher from an older animal, a different breed, or one of a thousand other reasons.

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is right in that you can't really compare the methods as the meat was not from the same source. Perhaps dividing one piece of meat into 2 equal pieces would be a better test. –  GdD Jul 16 at 10:12

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